Gordon Monahan's Theremin Pendulum sound installation at the Owens Art Gallery is described in the informational pamphlet as follows: "A theremin antenna made of flexible wire is mechanized so that it swings spastically as a chaotic pendulum. This causes the theremin to change pitch according to the swinging motion of the pendulum. The sound produced is multiplied by a delay system so that the viewer hears the sound of eight theremins at the same time." The pamphlet also goes on to say that there is a LED light that swings with the antenna, and shadows are cast in the darkened gallery, mirroring the frequency waves in the theremin. Essentialy, the sound bounces off the walls and the people in the gallery.
Sounds intriguing. In fact, it sounds visually and auditorally stimulating. The pamphlet failed to mention, however, that the sound produced by the theremin would sound like screeching children overlapping each other times eight, and that the two tiny spots of light that fly around the gallery are dizzying. The combination of the darkness, sound, and zipping lights create a feeling that is best described as "creepy." At first, I felt shocked, and slightly claustrophobic. I wasn't even sure how far into the room I could go because it was difficult to see in the dark. As time went on, I began to feel uncomfortable. The screeching child sound began to slowly fade into one prolonged note, to my relief. It is extremely hard to explain in words. It has to be experienced.
Monahan is a sound artist. He was a student at Mount Allison from 1976-1980, and has created sound installations and performances in New York, Minneapolis, Donaueschingen, Germany; and Berlin. He was the artist in residence in Berlin with the D.A.A.D. program, as well as in Banff at the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the Western Front in Vancouver, Podewil in Berlin, Kunsthalle Krems, the Museumsquartier Vienna, and is a fellow with the New York Foundation for the Arts.
It is obvious that this artist is successful, and his installations have inspired and wowed audiences internationally. Despite my own uncomfortable experience, the theremin pendulum certainly causes visitors to be in touch with their reactions to the unfamiliar. It will be in the Owens Gallery until December 4, and is worth a pause in one's day to experience something completely different.